Policy and Outreach: Hypoxia (old)

Interest in hypoxia has escalated rapidly as the extent of the event has grown. Local, state, and federal researchers and agencies consider the consequences and how to plan in the future. PISCO scientists and policy coordinators have engaged in a wide variety of activities to help inform these processes.

Selected press:

The Science of Hypoxia

Unlike the dead zones in estuarine systems that are caused in large parts by excessive nutrient run-offs from land, the Oregon dead zone forms along the open coast where coastal winds drive ocean currents that upwell nutrient-rich but oxygen-poor waters from the deep sea onto the shallow reaches of the continental shelf. This upwelling of nutrients further fuel phytoplankton blooms that eventually sink and decompose to further reduce oxygen levels in the already low oxygen waters along the seafloor. Hypoxic zones along the Oregon coast form seasonally, and can begin in late spring/early summer in response to the onset of upwelling-favorable winds from the North. Hypoxia can persist through the summer months and ultimately recedes for the year during the Fall when winds again shift direction and promote ocean currents that flushes low oxygen water off the continental shelf. 

Upwelling-caused dead zones have their greatest impacts on the shallow waters of the continental shelf where extremely low oxygen conditions are not a typical feature. The 2006 dead zone encompassed over 3000 km of the Oregon shelf, an area that exceeds the total combined area of estuaries in the state. Recent reports have also indicated the possible novel development of an analogous dead zone along the open coast of Washington state. Since upwelling shelves represent one of the largest fraction of coastal marine waters of the US west coast, uncertainties into the potential for further intensification and expansion of upwelling-driven dead zones represent a major scientific and management challenge.

Researchers and Collaborators

  • Other researchers include: Libe Washburn (PISCO/UCSB), Margaret McManus (PISCO/UCSC/University of Hawaii), John M. Bane (University of North Carolina), Karina Nielsen (Sonoma State University) and Stephen Pierce (OSU).
  • Primary collaborator is Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Habitat Program (ODFW). ODFW owns and operates the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Dr. Dave Fox oversees this program.

Monitoring and Evaluation

PISCO scientists are involved in studies to monitor hypoxia off the Oregon coast. Researchers are currently tracking the position and duration of the low-oxygen water, developing models to help understand and predict its occurrence, testing new instruments designed to provide near-real time measurements of ocean conditions, and evaluating the likely long-term impacts of the hypoxia.


Selected PISCO Publications and Resources

Outreach resources:

Photos of research during hypoxic events off Oregon Coast

Video: footage of Cape Perpetua in 2000/01 under normal conditions. Followed by footage of Cape Perpetua in 2006 during hypoxic conditions. From Chan, FC et al. 2008. Emergence of Anoxia in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Science, vol 319. www.sciencemag.org


PISCO Peer Reviewed Papers

Chan, F., J. A.Barth, J. Lubchenco, A. Kirincich, H. Weeks, W.T. Peterson, and B. A. Menge. 2008. Emergence of Anoxia in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Science 15 February 2008 vol 319. www.sciencemag.org

Grantham, B. A., F. Chan, K. J. Nielsen, D. S. Fox, J. A. Barth, A. Huyer, J. Lubchenco, and B. A. Menge. 2004. Upwelling-driven nearshore hypoxia signals ecosystem and oceanographic changes in the northeast Pacific. Nature 429:749-754.

Barth, J.A., B.A. Menge, J. Lubchenco, F. Chan, A. Kirinich, L. Washburn, M. McManus, J. Bane, K. Nielsen, and S. Pierce. Delayed upwelling alters nearshore coastal ocean ecosystems in the northern California Current. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2007 104:3719-3724.

→ See Master Citation List for all PISCO Scientists

Other Peer Reviewed and Technical Papers

Glenn,G., R. Arnone, T. Bergmann, W.P. Bissett, M. Crowley, J. Cullen, J. Gryzmski, D. Haidvogel, J. Kohut, M. Moline, M. Oliver, C. Orrico, R. Sherrell, T. Song, A. Weidemann, R. Chant, and O. Schofield. 2004. Biogeochemical impact of summertime coastal upwelling on the New Jersey Shelf. Journal of Geophysical Research. 109. C12S02, doi:10.1029/2003JC002265

Buck, Eugene. Marine Dead Zones: Understanding the problem. CRS Report for Congress, Nov 2006.

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